Hoping for Heaven Again
In 1988, a charlatan named Edgar C. Whisenant published a book called 88 Reasons Why the Rapture is in 1988. In it, he predicted that Jesus would return at some point between September 11 and 13 of that year. People actually believed him, and unfortunately, my dad was one of them.
I still remember Dad authoritatively saying, “Scripture says that ‘no man knows the day nor the hour of Christ’s return’ – but it doesn’t say they can’t know the month.”
At nine years old, that was all the biblical proof-texting I needed to get on board. My imagination ran wild, and so did my mouth as I spread the good news that Jesus was coming back to get me.
But then He didn’t.
I don’t remember being shaken too badly when Jesus didn’t show up. It probably helped that, despite the whole Whisenant debacle, my dad was just as excited as ever about going to Heaven.
I still remember one night in 1989 when he sat down with my brother Caleb and me. He began reminiscing about our brother and sister who had been killed in a tragic accident a few years before.
“I’m going to see them again in Heaven,” he said confidently, and then he began a long and vivid description of what it would be like there.
I have very little recollection of what Dad said that night, but what I do recall is that his description was so enthralling, so breathtaking, that Caleb and I could not contain ourselves. The more details he shared of his heavenly vision, the more we got excited, and eventually, we started euphorically jumping around the living room and shouting with joy. I had never loved my dad or Jesus more than I did in that moment.
That was the last time I remember letting myself dream about Heaven.
In the years following, I saw a lot of death: the death of my closest friend in high school, the death of my parents’ marriage, and the death of my relationship with my father. And although my relationship with Dad was eventually resurrected, my childhood innocence – along with my visions of Heaven – stayed in the grave.
Recently, I began praying, “God, I want to dream again,” without being totally sure what I meant by that. But I knew I had to pray it – I sensed it was the prayer that was already being prayed for me, maybe by Jesus, maybe by others.
The answers have been coming in unexpected ways.
This weekend, I was in the car with my little girls listening to a CD of Andrea Bocelli singing “Amazing Grace.” Shortly into the song, my daughters began singing with him in garbled English.
I couldn’t help but get choked up listening to their little voices coloring outside the lines as Bocelli belted out the song in his booming, operatic, tenor voice. When they asked me to play the song again, I found myself getting more emotional as I listened to them sing, but I didn’t understand why – I mean, they sing “Amazing Grace” almost every day.
The third time we played the song, the tears flowed freely when I heard something more than my daughters’ voices: in my imagination, I heard millions upon millions of children joining them in singing “Amazing Grace” to Jesus. The children were in Heaven, they were innocent, they were unashamed, they were happy to be together – and I was one of them.